New fantail installed on historic Suffolk windmill

Published

A historic Suffolk landmark has had a key feature restored in a refit by Suffolk County Council.

Photo of councillors and millwright in front of Buttrum's Mill

Buttrum’s Mill in Woodbridge has had a new fantail installed which mirrors the long-lost original.

The six-bladed fantail automatically turns to ensure the sails always face into the wind, regardless of whether they are turning.

This is important, as if the wind gets behind the sails, the mill is at risk of serious damage.

Built in 1836, the windmill worked until 1929 and was preserved by the former East Suffolk County Council under a 100-year lease in 1950.

Suffolk County Council is now responsible for the Grade II-listed mill’s upkeep.

Standing at more than 60 feet it is the tallest surviving mill in Suffolk.

It was built by John Whitmore, a millwright of Wickham Market, for the Trott family, and taken over in 1868 by the Buttrum family which ran it until its closure.

The original fantail was lost in the 1940s as the mill fell into disrepair following its closure.

In restorations in the 1950s a slightly smaller replacement fantail was made, but this did not matter as the sails and windmill cap no longer turned.

In the early 1980s, further restoration work enabled the cap and sails to turn once again, retaining the smaller fantail.

However, it was damaged beyond repair in gales in March 2021 and it was decided to build a new fantail of similar size and appearance to the original.

The new fantail is two feet bigger in diameter than the one it replaces, and the blades are painted dark green as they were in the 1930s.

The work cost £14,300 and was carried out by Bill Griffiths of MillBill millwrights in Ipswich, who remembers the mill from living in Woodbridge as a child.

He said:

“Buttrum’s was one of the first mills to catch my attention aged about seven years old, so it has been immensely satisfying, some 55 years later, to be responsible for the latest phase of works required to maintain the mill in good safe order.

“It is fantastic that the council had the foresight in the 1950’s to take responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the mill.”

Photo of the new fantail fitted into place

Most of the mill’s mechanism remains intact, although this would require an extensive overhaul if it were ever to produce flour again.

Councillor Melanie Vigo Di Gallidoro, Suffolk County Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Protected Landscapes and Archaeology, said:

“Buttrum’s Mill is a well-known and much cherished part of the Suffolk landscape.

“As the mill’s custodians the council is delighted to have played its part in restoring this key feature so that the mill resembles how it looked in its heyday and can be enjoyed by future generations.”

The mill is in the grounds of a house built for the miller’s family and now owned and lived in by Nancy Waters, partner Henry Palmer, and their two children.

Nancy said:

“It’s great to see the mill starting to come back to life. It’s a magical building and lots of local people have memories about it.

“You can tell Bill loves the mill; he’s paid so much attention to every detail.”

The next objective for the mill, which relies on volunteers and is occasionally open to the public, is restoration of its sails.

If you would like to get involved on open days, please contact Mark Barnard at Suffolk County Council on 01473 264755 or email mark.barnard@suffolk.gov.uk